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Soar Back in time: Dumbo the Flying Elephant

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Soar Back in time: Dumbo the Flying Elephant

Climb aboard your favorite flying elephant! Ride along as we take a deep dive into the magic of one of Disney World’s iconic opening day attractions: Dumbo the Flying Elephant.

Deep Dive Series

Guests far and wide will celebrate the Magic Kingdom’s 50th Anniversary starting on October 1, 2021. Find out what we know so far about the 50th anniversary celebrations here. As a way to celebrate, we will be examining the history behind each of the park’s opening day attractions.

On October 1, 1971, Disney World’s Magic Kingdom opened up with 19 attractions for guests to enjoy. Some of these rides have changed dramatically since opening day, while others remain mostly the same.

Scan of an opening day map as depicted on the 40th anniversary of the Magic Kingdom on October 1, 2011

As avid Disney fans, what better way to celebrate the future by reflecting upon the nostalgia of the past?

As the first article in this series, we will explore one of the most iconic and transcendent attractions at the parks: Dumbo the Flying Elephant.

Image Courtesy of D23

Ride Description

Make your way over to Storybook Circus! Dumbo the Flying Elephant is the crown jewel of this section of the 2012 Fantasyland expansion. Then, spend time weaving through the air conditioned interactive queue themed after the circus in the 1941 title film.

As you wait, your children can play in the playground areas while you hold a buzzer alerting you of your return to line time.

When it is your turn to ride, carefully choose your ride vehicle, climb aboard the two-seater elephant, and use the lever to raise or lower your ride vehicle high in the sky as you spin around the ride’s hub.

Image Courtesy of D23

This ride is sure to be your child’s favorite (and maybe your’s too!) For extra magic, hop on this ride at night to see the magic of the fireworks from the sky!

Movie Origins

The idea for this attraction stems from the 1941 title film Dumbo. The title film premiered following both Fantasia and Pinocchio. These two films required significant budgets (2.28 million and 2.6 million respectively). With a budget of $812,000, this movie was a relatively cheap film to produce.

According to D23, the film was created utilizing a small budget because it was “able to move very quickly through the animation department due to its succinct story and clearcut characters.”

Image Courtesy of D23

Ultimately, the film was a box office success for Disney, grossing roughly 1.3 million dollars in 1941 (equivalent to almost 28 million dollars today). The film earned an Academy Award in 1941 for Best Score and won Best Animation Design at the 1947 Cannes Film Festival.

Dumbo re-released in theaters in 1949, 1959, 1972, and 1976. The movie inspired a live action adaptation in 2019, a Tim Burton film by the same name.

Disneyland Origins

In the mind’s eye of Imagineer Bruce Bushman, Dumbo the Flying Elephant would be a magnificent opening day Disneyland attraction featuring the uniquely original pink elephants from the film. Instead, the ride vehicles resemble the title character as a demand from Walt himself.

Image Courtesy of D23

Also, Dumbo the Flying Elephant was an opening day attraction in original plans. But, due to technical challenges, this ride didn’t make the cut for opening day.

According to D23,

“The aerodynamic ears on each dumbo-shaped ride vehicle were supposed to flap up and down, but the mechanism refused to work properly.”

D23 “Late Arrivals- Disneyland Attractions that Opened in August 1955”

The ride opened a month later on August 16, 1955. Learn more about Disneyland’s Dumbo attraction here!

Image Courtesy of D23

Imagineer and Disney legend John Hench stated in Designing Disney: Imagineering and the Art of the Show that:

“Disneyland was designed from the outset with the assumption that the popularity of the animated characters would make it necessary to showcase them in appropriate representations of their film environment.”

D23 “Up and Up: 65 Years of Twirling with Dumbo the Flying Elephant”

Chris Nichols, author of Walt Disney’s Disneyland stated that, “Dumbo just shows how everybody that worked to build Disneyland was committed to realizing this dream and made sacrifices to invent something that the world had never seen before.”

Image Courtesy of D23

Dumbo quickly developed beyond a ride to an iconic experience that represented Disney parks as a whole.

October 1, 1971

In the center of Fantasyland, Dumbo the Flying Elephant stood as one of the crown jewels of the park. Guests could experience this attraction in its location directly behind the, then titled, Cinderella’s Golden Carrousel.

With 10 ride vehicles, this ride lacked serious rider capacity at the park’s onset. Additionally, there was no water feature in the Magic Kingdom’s version of the ride. The utilidoors that ran directly underneath the Dumbo attraction prevented the installation of necessary water pipes.

Image Courtesy of D23

In 1993, the ride received its first major upgrade with the addition of a new ride mechanism that included 16 ride vehicles.

2012’s Fantasyland expansion brought this attraction’s most significant changes. Dumbo is now located in the Storybook Circus of Magic Kingdom’s Fantasyland. The attraction now features two 16 ride vehicle mechanisms that counter-rotate from each other for a total of 32 ride vehicles.

In 2012, the attraction gained water features, including fountain lights that change colors at night.

Possibly the most notable addition in 2012 was the addition of an (air conditioned!) indoor themed queue designed to look like the circus from the film. Children can play and adults can relax with a specialty themed pager alerting guests of their turn to ride. Currently, due to COVID-19 restrictions, this play portion of the queue is closed as of the time of publishing this article.

Other Notable Details

A ride vehicle from this beloved ride can be found in Washington, D.C. at the National Museum of American History. Dumbo was selected because the ride represents Disney and the “cultural fabric of America” perfectly.

Guests can experience this attraction at six different Disney parks including Disneyland in Anaheim, Walt Disney World in Orlando, Tokyo Disneyland, Disneyland Paris, Hong Kong Disneyland, and Shanghai Disneyland.

Memories

Dumbo the Flying Elephant is certainly one of the most iconic Magic Kingdom attractions. It sparks so many memories of nostalgia and childhood. What are your favorite memories of this beloved attraction? Share by commenting below or on the Kenny the Pirate Facebook page. I’d love to hear from you!

-Jaelyn Winkle




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